It was 6 a.m. in Kathmandu when Rabbi Chezki Lifshitz’s emergency alarm sounded. Two female Israeli backpackers were in distress. Stranded at 4,800 meters above sea level, in a remote part of the mountainous country, Maya Butbul and Sharon Nachumi messaged they were freezing and in imminent danger.
“Hyperthermia had set in, and every minute was precious,” says the rabbi, who co-directs Chabad of Nepal with his wife, Chani. “Within a half-hour, we were in a helicopter and on our way to get them.”
The Israeli-born rabbi is no stranger to emergency chopper rides. In the wake of the massive earthquake that devastated Nepal last April, he flew to the hardest-hit areas, rescuing stranded Israeli hikers and tourists, and bringing aid to locals in need.
Working with the rescue squad of Chilik Magnus, the Israeli Foreign Ministry and fellow Israeli backpackers trained in first aid who had cared for the women until the chopper arrived, Lifshitz reported that the women were brought to a hospital in Kathmandu, where they are currently being treated.
The GPS devices that the rabbi used to locate the women are attached to satellite phones donated by the family of Nadav Shoham, a hiker killed in a freak blizzard in 2014, to enable other hikers to reach the Lifshitzes in an emergency.
Not all chopper rides had happy endings. In 2013, he had helicoptered to the Chitwan National Park to recover the remains of an Australian backpacker whose bus had plunged into a ravine. In that case, he was rushing to retrieve the body before it would be cremated by local officials.
The rabbi’s message: “Are you setting out on a hike? Do yourself a favor. Please take a GPS device from the Chabad House. With G‑d’s help, it can save a life.”